This route is Mt. Shasta’s best playground. The Hotlum offers seemingly endless opportunities in a compact package. This route is best accessed via the Brewer Creek trail head which can be limited in the early season by winter snow pack that may not melt until late June or early July. Most of the summer it is a delight to explore, offering a true wilderness experience with few if any other visitors.
The glacier is a paradise for the experienced alpinist offering numerous crevasses to navigate around, as well as the lower, middle, and upper ice falls bulging with frozen seracs. These areas offer the opportunity for some ice climbing mid to late season! Seasonal conditions will transform the Hotlum Glacier dramatically. The lower portion of the Glacier, above the bivouac sites at its toe, present easy glacier travel. The higher on the route you go, the more complex the route finding becomes. The true crux of the route comes with exiting the glacier. There are several variations including the scariest, mankiest 5.8 multi-pitch rock route one can imagine, the true Hotlum Headwall. Typical exits are either up to climber’s right toward the Step on the Hotlum/Bolam Ridge Route, or to the climbers left over a bergschrund into a steep chute leading toward the top the of the Hotlum/Wintun Route. Late season on the HG is one of the best kept secrets in the California climbing community. By fall the glacier’s seracs, smears, and runnels are bullet proof and best for experienced climbers. It’s worth at least two days for this route.
This trailhead (Northgate) is still CLOSED. You can still access the Mt Shasta Wilderness from the trailhead, however summit passes and wilderness permits must be acquired from either McCloud or Mt Shasta Ranger Stations. The bathrooms are open and human waste packout bags are available inside. Travel at your own risk. Late winter storms can easily bring ample snow and make your hasty retreat challenging! This will limit vehicle access to the trail head, as well. Usually, several miles of snow covered roads must be traveled before reaching the trailhead proper.
The glacier is caked with snow and looking great. Northwest winds howl over here and can keep exposed ridgelines scoured. Be careful where the glacier begins below the Hotlum Headwall. Rocks constantly peel off this prominent rock face. The route up the glacier can take many variations depending on how involved you want to get, and/or the location of crevasse features, the condition of the three ice falls, etc. Plan on melting snow but water can be found at times, usually later winter/spring or during warmer periods. Full glacier travel protocol and skills are necessary to consider this route.
You have two options to get around the Hotlum Headwall rock face: right or left. The right route has a few variations but most follow the Hotlum/Bolam Ridge route from "The Step" to the summit. If you go left around the headwall, most join the Hotlum/Wintun Snowfield route. Yes, some have climbed the rock face as well, but it is a death wish. It's very loose, poorly protected and not worth it!
Many camp at what we call the Hotlum Hilton. (41N 25 22 x 122W 10 13 - 10,000 feet) Many of the guided groups stay here as well, so perhaps another campsite nearby is better. In that general area, there are a lot of options without camping on top of each other.
Most approach this route from the Brewer Creek trailhead.